House Chairman Outlines Priorities January 23, 2015

House Chairman Outlines Priorities

January 23, 2015

This week new House Armed Services Committee Chairman, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), called for sequestration relief as one of his major priorities for the year, and warned Pentagon planners against proposing disproportionate cuts to military pay and benefits.

“The problem with sequestration is not primarily about numbers and statistics,” said Thornberry. “It is about whether we have the capability to do what the nation needs and the times demand. It is also very much about the increased danger that comes from diminished training, aging equipment, and a tempo of operations that stretches our people and their families too far. It has to be fixed…That fix has got to pass the House of Representatives, it’s got to pass the Senate, and it’s got to be signed into law by the president.”

The Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 established automatic across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration and continues to place America’s national defense capabilities at great risk.

During the 2011 deficit reduction negotiations, the administration agreed to reduce the Pentagon’s budget by $487 billion over a ten year period. The later enactment of sequestration added $500 billion more in defense cuts.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 mitigated the spending cuts only in FY 2014 and 2015. Sequestration returns in full force in FYs 2016-2021 unless current law is changed. DoD will have to cut an additional $54 billion in FY 2016 and a total of $269 billion over the following five fiscal years.

The next two weeks promise to be a critical time for the military community. The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) will release proposals to reform military compensation and health care in late January. The administration will roll out its FY 2016 budget proposal on 2 February.

Thornberry warned Pentagon planners against “nickel and diming [military] people to death” with proposals to cut military pay and benefits.

The Chairman expressed hope the MCRMC review could provide a forum for thoughtful discussion on the future of military compensation, as opposed to the yearly back-and-forth battles between Congress and the administration.

Thornberry’s comments indicate he may oppose burdening servicemembers, retirees, and families with a disproportionate share of budget cuts, but the ensuing debate will be the true litmus test.

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